June 2022

Thursday, June 16, 2022 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

PSNA meeting June 16, 2022

Agenda was to get a sense of what was on people’s minds

We began with lots of introductions of folks on the call, which we haven’t done in a while.

Most topics raised in the meeting were discussed (or bemoaned) briefly, but two of them got some traction:

  • Proposals for charter reform and the history of how the need for it became more urgent
  • Redesign of bus network currently underway with MBTA for its 5-year plan.

Brief topics

  • The City process for everything is broken. Staff have an agenda for everything, and are not interested in any input that runs counter to it.
  • The bike lane lawsuit.
  • Will the new trash cans really keep rats at bay? If everyone keeps the lids shut tight, it will help a great deal.
  • Removal of the median near Upland Road is underway. Concern of a resident of Mt. Vernon St that left turns from Mass Ave up Mt. Vernon will likely become a way for some drivers to avoid the congestion at Porter Square.
  • The area is losing a lot of small businesses. Covid didn’t help, and the bike lanes are the nail in the coffin for some.
  • Why were there so few candidates for the City Manager position? The search firm hired did not appear to be looking beyond Route 128.

Charter reform and a history of Cambridge politics

The theme that ran through the conversation was how broken the process for civic engagement on just about anything with the City has become. Many on the call could recall more robust processes with better outcomes for all. Some felt that the new generation of “leadership” in many City departments has failed to grasp that serious engagement with residents actually reduces the kind of opposition that the bike lane fiasco has generated.

The observation that the bike lanes is the most contentious issue in the City since rent turned the conversation toward that history and the history of Cambridge politics, and what has—and has not changed. Alice Wolf, who lived and made much of that history, shared her experiences and observations, which many in attendance were not aware of. She offered an insightful analysis of how reform of the City charter could restore some of the influence residents have lost. It was so interesting, in fact, that the minute-taker was completely absorbed by it and failed to take the kind of notes that might capture it. My apologies.

All is not lost, however. We agreed that this particular subject was a worthy agenda for a PSNA meeting in the fall.

Redesign of MBTA bus networks

James Williamson gave a report on the work being done to prepare a plan for new bus routes to go into effect in the next five years.

The elusive objective of efficiency will improve the frequency of service on some routes (the 77, for example). The possibilities for other routes that run through Porter Square are less appealing. For example, the current discussion would likely eliminate the section of the route of the 83 bus between Central and Porter Square, requiring passengers to take the subway instead. This change would reduce service to parts of the community that rely on the 83. Also, changes to the 96 bus to Medford Square are under consideration.

Details on these proposals and future meetings are available here: